No vehicle segment has had a bigger fall from grace this year than the one comprising the nation’s smallest cars.
According to VFACTS data, sales of micro cars are down 31.3 per cent this year to 10,132 units. They fell an even more significant 40.1 per cent in November, to 618.
This equates to market share of just 1.0 per cent annual, and 0.6 per cent for November. In other words, of every 100 vehicles sold, only one is a micro car.
What is a micro car?
The segment comprises the Mitsubishi Mirage (3616 sales YTD, down 41.3 per cent); Fiat 500 (2070, down 24.9 per cent); Holden Barina Spark (1407, up 19.8 per cent); Suzuki Celerio (1290, compared with 1698 last year for its Alto predecessor) and the Nissan Micra (1165, down 46.3 per cent).
Other niche players are cars that are actually no longer on sale — the axed Fiat Panda (229, down 21 per cent); the superseded Alto (275 units earlier this year); the Smart ForTwo (76, down 28.3 per cent); Volkswagen Up (3 units) and Chery J1 (1 unit).
This large drop at the bargain basement end of the market contrasts overall market-wide growth of 3.9 per cent this year, and 6.9 per cent in November. It also eclipses the overall drop in passenger vehicles of 3.1 per cent over both periods.
On an annualised basis, it’s easy to see where many prospective buyers are going. Sales of the next segment up, light cars, have grown 3.9 per cent this year to 98,345. This is a 3668 unit differential, while the differential drop in micro car sales sits at 4610.
When you consider the deals being done on light cars — low interest rates, driveaway campaigns, etc — it’s easy to see why buyers might pay the few thousand dollar premium, especially if it's rolled up into a multi-year, low-rate finance plan.
Regardless, Australia’s cheapest cars are struggling to find interest. That’s bad news for Holden, which launches the new Spark in February 2016, with the promise of a more experiential, left-of-centre and female-skewed sales experience such as via pop-up stores.